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Nudist culture in Germany

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The Nudist culture in Germany is referred to as “FKK” which is short for “Freikörperkultur”. Today you will find stretches of beach in almost every larger town on the Baltic Sea coast that are specially reserved for nudists. 

Nudist culture is Germany is normal, not just on the Baltic Sea. It is part of the culture. It doesn’t really matter whether nudist fans or fighters these days nudism in Germany is focused more on the health effect or the streak-free tanned body. Below is a look at the start of the nudist culture in Germany.

How did the nudist culture in Germany start?

1. Nudist culture at the start of the German Empire

The nudist movement was given the right impetus by Prof. Dr. Samuel Gottlieb Vogel (1750 to 1837). As the personal physician of Friedrich Franz I and the initiator of the founding of the first German seaside resort, he demanded: “Bathing dresses are not advisable in the bath, because they inhibit its use!”

The nudist culture emerged around 1900 in the context of the life reform movement, which strives for a renewal of the entire way of life (nutrition, clothing, housing, health and personal care). 

In connection with medical-naturopathic concepts, which since the end of the 18th century ascribed a special health-promoting effect to unclothed “bathing in light, air and sun”, the naked body is being “rediscovered” as the “most natural” expression of physicality.

 The advocates of nudity (the term nudism only came into use after the First World War) upgraded nudity to the actual moral and “natural” way of life. They aggressively reversed the accusation of their opponents of offending against morality and “good morals”. They propagated practiced nudity as a means of “liberation” from a “sick” way of life in a “sick” society. 

The nudist culture in Germany saw itself as a comprehensive sociopolitical concept that sought to change society through self-reform. 


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2. Nudist culture at the start of the Weimar Republic

At the beginning of the Weimar Republic, the nudist movement became very vocal. Numerous associations emerged that reflected the entire political spectrum of the Weimar Republic and defended different concepts of nudism. 

Extensive journalism, largely unaffected by prohibitions and censorship, propagated the goals of nudism. 

The first nudist area in Germany, the open-air park Klingberg, near Scharbeutz, was not established until 1903. The first official nudist beach was built on Sylt in 1920.
The nudist movement is growing very quickly, it is becoming a mass movement. Numerous clubs and associations emerge, especially in the vicinity of large cities. At the end of the Weimar Republic there were around 100,000 organized nudists. 

In addition to nationwide nudist associations with their local groups and the local associations, a tourist infrastructure was created that also offered non-organized nudists opportunities for leisure and holiday stays in the “light dress”.

3. Nudist culture during the National Socialism era in Germany

Nudist culture in Germany

After the Nazis came to power, the nudist movement was nominally banned by decree. The prohibition hit the proletarian nudist associations in great severity. 

Most of the bourgeois naturist associations choose the path of voluntary self-alignment: by excluding those members who were henceforth considered to be “non-Aryans” and / or political opponents of National Socialism. The associations they joined together to form the “ring for völkisch nudism” (from 1934 “Bund für Leibeszucht “). 

From the beginning, the “Bund” ideologically emphasized its special contribution to the “racial, health and moral enhancement of the people’s strength” but only with the increased attention to physical fitness in connection with the desired “militarization” of the German population from 1935 onwards. Nudism was increasingly recognized and promoted by state and party official bodies. The nudist received special support and appreciation from the SS, which, on Himmler’s personal initiative, enabled the “Bunds für Leibeszucht” to continue working until the spring of 1945.

4. Nudist culture in West Germany

Nudist culture in Germany

After the Allied Forces had banned the “Bundes für Leibeszucht”, naturist associations were gradually permitted again in the western occupation zones from 1946 onwards. In the first years of the West Germany Republic, nudism remained on the social side. The repressive climate of the “Adenauer era” is expressed, among other things, in the rigorous fight against “dirt and trash” and all forms of nudity. Only with the fundamental change in dealing with nudity in the media and everyday practice does nudism gain a hitherto unimagined social acceptance from the mid-1960s. 

During this period, naturism became an unorganized mass movement. It was increasingly not only practiced as a holiday pleasure, but increasingly took over spaces as a summer leisure activity in the local recreation areas and urban green spaces beyond the areas approved for nudists. 

In the organized nudist movement, the life reform positions of the old nudism were largely marginalized. The notions of nudism as a comprehensive way of life with cultural and socio-political objectives were replaced by a self-image as “healthy”, community-promoting leisure time enjoyment for family recreation and sporting activities without any further-reaching claims.

5. Nudist culture in East Germany

Nudist culture in Germany

In East Germany, nudism developed into a mass movement that encompassed all age groups and social strata.

Nudism was allowed at approved bathing areas, but the formation of nudist associations remained forbidden. 

After the 1950s, nudism also spread beyond the approved areas. Initially always handicapped, sometimes criminally prosecuted, the “wild” nudists were finally tolerated, and numerous “wild” bathing places were legalized. 

With the fading of traditional bourgeois moral concepts, especially in questions of sexual morality, nudism became a natural part of leisure culture for many citizens from the mid-1960s. At the end of the 1980s, the picture at most bathing areas was extremely mixed. Nudism was everywhere.

6. Nudist culture in Germany today

Nudist culture in Germany

Today, nudism is part of everyday summer life not only at many bathing areas, but also in inner-city public parks, swimming pools and beaches. The occupation of public spaces by the naked is controversial in the media every season, but serious offense is no longer taken. 

In contrast to the “veiled society” of the German Empire, in which nudity in every form was viewed as shamelessness and moral danger, today nudism has lost everything that was scandalous.

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